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USDA: There is interest in CSP, but program is not fully funded
By LINDA McGURK
Indiana Correspondent

ROCKVILLE, Ind. — USDA Secretary Mike Johanns recently announced a list of new watersheds nominated for USDA’s 2007 Conservation Security Program (CSP), introduced in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The Upper East Fork White watershed in Indiana, which includes more than 1,300 farms, was among 51 nominated areas. CSP creates incentives in the form of payments and technical assistance for farmers who “are meeting the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations,” according to USDA.

Since the first sign-up in 2004, the program has covered 280 watersheds nationwide - including seven in Indiana - comprising nearly 224 million acres of cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pasture and range land.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest (in CSP) and at this point it’s just an issue of funding,” said Don Donovan, district conservationist with USDA in Rockville, Ind. “The program hasn’t been fully funded, and they’ve had to cut back on some watersheds.”

Congress determines the funding available for each fiscal year, and some funds have been reallocated due to the war in Iraq.

CSP claims to “reward the best and motivate the rest” when it comes to land management, and since it’s a conservation program, it’s also a way for the government to “put money in farmers’ hands without it being subject to world-trade talks,” according to Donovan.

Contracted farmers receive three types of payments; a stewardship payment, which is based on the farm’s acreage; an existing-practice payment, which amounts to one quarter of the stewardship payment; and an enhancement payment for improving conservation efforts. Most of the money is to be made in the latter category.

For example, a farmer may receive $1-$35 per acre for improving wildlife habitats, $8 per acre for planting all crops no-till and $1.16-$29 per acre for improving soil conditioning and quality. There are also a number of one-time payments, like $500 for doing an energy audit, $25 per 100 gallons of renewable fuel used and $200 per year for recycling all motor oil used. The contracts run from 5-10 years and cap out at $45,000 per year. To date, there are 659 CSP contracts in Indiana, with payments totaling more than $15.5 million.

USDA offers CSP annually on an ongoing, rotational basis “in as many watersheds as funding allows,” according to a USDA news release.

“We can’t foresee what will happen,” said Donovan about the funding issue, “but hopefully the 2007 Farm Bill will be even more advantageous.”

For details about the 2007 CSP watersheds and eligibility requirements, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CSP

This farm news was published in the Oct. 25, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

10/24/2006